DOHA (AFP) – Richard Gasquet made a convincing start to his bid to regain a place in the world’s top 10 with a new year first round victory in the Qatar Open on Monday.
The Switzerland-based former world number seven made some enterprising approaches to the net and hit plenty of characteristically flowing ground strokes during a 6-3, 7-5 win over Pablo Andujar, a top 50 Spaniard.
Though it was a match Gasquet expected to win, the quality of his game sometimes made it hard to believe he has dropped to 27 in the rankings after a disappointing 2014.
Two years ago after winning the title here he went on to return to the world’s top ten for the first time in five years. He would love to do something similar this time.
Gasquet’s only uncertain moments occurred when he led 5-3 in the second set, with the match all but won. After Andujar held serve for 4-5, Gasquet dropped his own service for the first time — to love, with a game which included a double fault.
He responded by breaking Andujar for the third time, saving a game point with a brilliantly struck trademark backhand, following it with two successful net approaches, and reaching 6-5 with another elegantly powerful backhand.
Further progress will involve an encounter with Simone Bolelli, the world number 52 from Italy, which appears within Gasquet’s capacity to negotiate, followed by a possible quarter-final with Tomas Berdych, the third-seeded former Wimbledon finalist from the Czech Republic, against whom he holds a 6-4 winning record.